Former State Sen. Andrew Rice, who resigned his legislative post earlier this year to move to Tennessee, is returning to Oklahoma City as executive director of the Variety Care Foundation.
Rice will be in charge of raising money and awareness for Variety Care, Oklahoma's largest community health center that operates 13 part-time and full-time health care locations in Oklahoma.
Rice, 39, and his family moved to Nashville to support his wife's medical career, but he said her job there wasn't what she had hoped it would be.
“A good opportunity arose for her that wasn't there a year ago when we were in Oklahoma City,” Rice said. “It's been a tough year sort of going back and forth. We never really wanted to leave.”
Rice said he was excited to learn about the position at the Variety Care Foundation.
“I've always admired their work,” he said.
His hiring likely won't prompt any major changes in the foundation's operations, which are focused on philanthropy and community awareness, Rice said.
“Variety Care is poised for continued growth to meet the comprehensive primary care needs of even more Oklahomans in an affordable way, and the Variety Care Foundation will continue to play a critical role in raising the money that helps provide access to care for all Oklahomans, even those without health insurance,” he said.
As a community health center, Variety provides health care for insured and uninsured people who have problems getting access to health care services. Last year, Variety Care provided medical, dental, vision and behavioral care, as well as nutrition education and food supplements, to more than 56,000 Oklahomans.
Variety Care CEO Lou Carmichael said bringing in someone with Rice's background will help Variety Care achieve continued program and capacity expansions.
“Andrew is a bold leader with a big heart and a terrific community reputation,” Carmichael said. “He understands the health care needs of Oklahomans and how we can solve some of these problems. I am excited for him to begin meeting with donors and community leaders to successfully communicate these needs and the opportunities we have to improve the health of the communities we serve.”
Variety Care operates six locations in the Oklahoma City metro area and three in southwestern Oklahoma, including Fort Cobb, Tipton and Grandfield.
“It's an exciting time for federally qualified health centers because they're playing a more and more prominent role as we try to deal with the challenges of health care,” Rice said.
Providing primary care to the uninsured, patients on Medicaid or those who can afford to pay on a sliding scale supports general wellness and reduces the burden on the emergency rooms at local hospitals, Rice said.
“There's a lot of room to grow too. A lot of people don't know about Variety, and federally qualified health centers are going to have a bigger and bigger role moving forward with a lot of the health care changes that are coming moving forward,” he said. “I'm excited to be a part of it.”
As for politics, Rice said he has no plans to run for any elective office, although he didn't rule it out in the distant future.
“I'm not going to run for anything anytime soon at all, or even the next 10 or 15 years,” Rice said. “Right now, I'm happy to be out of elective office and really don't have any desire to go back to it at all.”
Meanwhile, Rice is glad to return to his hometown, where he will again be close to family and longtime friends — and the Thunder.
“I missed that,” he said. “I got to watch all of it, but I was envious not being able to go to games.”